Propane’s role in forklift market discussed at PERC meeting

April 19, 2018 By    

The head of the nation’s forklift association reported on his industry’s record growth and suggested ways for the propane industry to regain lost market share in a traditionally strong demand area.

Brian Feehan, president of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), presented to the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) prior to the NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in Atlanta.

ITA’s membership is composed of manufacturers of lift trucks, tow tractors, rough terrain vehicles, hand-pallet trucks and automated guided vehicles throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. ITA represents 90 percent of the forklift manufacturers in the United States and Canada.

Growing propane’s forklift market share involves approaching the industry from the customer side, according to Brian Feehan, president of the Industrial Truck Association. Photo courtesy of the Propane Education & Research Council.

“The good news is our market has been growing,” says Feehan, who formerly worked for PERC. “2015 was a record year for the industry and was surpassed in 2016 and 2017. We’ve had three straight years of record growth, capped off with just over a quarter-million units [sold] in 2017.”

Feehan outlined details about the forklift market. Its five classes are separated by electric (class 1-3) and internal combustion engine (class 4-5) units. Propane controls the latter class, at about 90 percent, over diesel and gasoline.

The electric market, however, continues to take propane’s market share, which has slipped from 48 percent in the early 1990s to 36 percent last year. Improved battery technology that aids operator efficiency is one reason for electric’s rise.

“This is a trend you want to keep your eyes on,” Feehan told the council, “because it seems to be growing.”

Propane’s lost forklift market share has been a discussion point for the council. PERC held a forklift summit last year to discuss the issue, and it came away with the knowledge that propane marketers can play more of a role in promoting their fuel.

“It’s not about emissions and technology. It’s about having an engaged marketer base who’s right there with the distributor on the front line,” says Tucker Perkins, PERC’s president and CEO. “This is really ground zero of the electric fight for us because battery manufacturers continue to show innovation and we’re losing market share where we shouldn’t be.”

Feehan says growing propane’s forklift market share involves approaching the industry from the customer side.

“You have to educate the customers,” he says.

Feehan suggests propane industry members attend the MODEX trade show in Atlanta – the largest manufacturing and supply chain expo held in North America and South America. He also says opportunities exist for the propane industry to work with the thousands of material handling dealers in every market across the country.

>More: Forklift sales on the rise in 2017

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

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